Report by Laura Kennedy-Smith, Dive Instructor, Emperor Sharm
April is a month to celebrate at Emperor Divers Sharm as summer finally arrives. Each year from April to September we are sometimes lucky enough to have the company of manta rays on our dives (or Manta birostris
, as Emperor instructor Pete Walsh would say!) All this month there have been numerous manta ray sightings by Emperor guests up and down the coastline. No longer is 'Ras Mohammed' or 'Tiran' the most popular choice, the 'local' dive sites are the place to be!
Manta rays, easily distinguished by their large mandibles, are the biggest winged creatures that inhabit the oceans. The largest known specimen measured more than 7.6 metres across with a weight of about 2,300 kilos. But here in Sharm a smaller, yet still impressive 3-4 metres is more common. Mantas feed mainly on plankton filtered from the water passing through their gills as they swim. Incidentally their top speed is only 7 miles per hour and for those of you that have had the chance to dive with them before, you'll know it seems like they are going much faster.
Scuba diving with a manta ray is an amazing experience, often ended with a cheer of delight from the dive group upon reaching the surface. They are quite curious animals and they are often known to approach scuba divers, either enjoying the interaction and playing with our bubbles or simply wanting to see what is happening. These magnificent creatures are also frequently seen feeding near or at the surface so those snorkelling also might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse.
When diving with manta rays it is very important to remember that they are wild animals and should be observed only. The less action a scuba diver takes to scare a manta ray, such as chasing it to get a better look or to get that perfect picture, the more likely it is that the manta ray will hang around giving an unforgettable experience. Happy manta ray spotting this summer in Sharm!